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How to review or appeal a decision

Have you made an application for disability benefits from Veterans Affairs Canada and received a decision? If you disagree with that decision, you have the right to review or appeal it.

About review and appeals

If you choose to review or appeal your decision from Veterans Affairs Canada, your first call should be to the Bureau of Pensions Advocates (BPA)–-a nation-wide organization of lawyers within Veterans Affairs Canada. Their team will review your file and may recommend a departmental review or a hearing before the Veterans Review and Appeal Board.


Departmental review

One of the most common reasons why applications for disability benefits are not approved by Veterans Affairs Canada, or the assessment is less than you expected, is due to a lack of sufficient evidence in the original application. If you have new evidence that was not included in your application, you may request a departmental review and submit the new evidence.

The Bureau of Pensions Advocates team can help you with the written submission and application forms.

In a departmental review, an adjudicator from Veterans Affairs Canada will examine your submission, including any new evidence, to determine if a new decision should be issued. Learn more about how Veterans Affairs Canada reviews a disability claim.


Veterans Review and Appeal Board

If the departmental review does not meet your expectations or if your case does not merit a departmental review, you can take your claim to the Veterans Review and Appeal Board (VRAB).

The Veterans Review and Appeal Board is an independent federal tribunal that offers two possible chances to appeal a disability decision from the Department. The first step is a review hearing.


Review Hearing

If possible, you are encouraged to attend and testify at your hearing. Your travel costs may be covered by Veterans Affairs. Your lawyer will:

  • go through the evidence in your case with the Board members;
  • ask questions of you or any other witnesses;
  • introduce new evidence, and,
  • make oral arguments on your behalf.

If you are unable to appear in-person, your lawyer can represent you. It is possible to testify by telephone, if you have the agreement of the Board.

Following the review hearing, you will receive a decision letter from VRAB.

If you disagree with the decision, you have the right to appeal it. This next step is an appeal hearing.


Appeal Hearing

Appeal Hearings take place in Charlottetown before a different panel than your review hearing.

For an appeal hearing, your lawyer will either argue your case on your behalf in front of a panel or file a written submission to the panel. You are not required to attend your appeal hearing.

Your lawyer will:

  • go through the evidence in your case with the Board members;
  • introduce new evidence, and,
  • make oral arguments on your behalf.

The Board’s decision at an appeal hearing is final and binding. That said, there are provisions in the Veterans Review and Appeal Board Act that allow the Board to further reconsider the matter if there has been an error of fact, error of law, or if new evidence becomes available. These reconsiderations are not routine. Your lawyer will advise you if they believe the Board would agree to hear a reconsideration in your case.

If you remain unsatisfied with the final decision, there is only one other avenue of appeal remaining – a judicial review.


Judicial Review

In certain and specific circumstances, you may be able to pursue a Judicial Review through the Federal Court of Canada. This approach should only be considered in situations where you and your lawyer are certain that the Veterans Review and Appeal Board has made an error in law or in fact, or that VRAB overlooked significant facts that could impact other applicants for disability benefits. This usually involves an issue of interpretation of specific law(s). Your lawyer will advise you if they think a judicial review is an option you should consider.

It’s important to note that lawyers from the Bureau are not mandated to represent you before the Federal Court. They can advise you if your case has merit, but to proceed through this review, you will need to hire your own legal counsel or you can choose to represent yourself. In order to proceed to Judicial Review you have a 30-day time limit to apply to the Federal Court of Canada.


Related information

Bureau of Pensions Advocates - If you choose to review or appeal a disability benefits decision made by Veterans Affairs Canada, a lawyer with the Bureau of Pensions Advocates can provide you with free legal advice and representation.

Veterans Review and Appeal Board - Find out how you can make an application to have your disability benefits decision independently reviewed by the Board.

Judicial review (Federal Court of Canada) – The Federal Court has the jurisdiction to review decisions made by most federal decision-makers.


Fact sheets

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